Four time Harry Potter director David Yates pulls fans back into J.K. Rowling’s world in a prequel full of magical creatures. But is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them just quick cash for Warner or does it provide a fresh take on one the most popular movie-franchises in history?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
With the recent premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an expansion pack in Lego Dimensions, and the remaster of Lego Harry Potter on PS4, one would think that it’s prime-time to dive back into J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Five years after the last film in the series brought the story about Harry Potter and his struggles against the forces of darkness to a close, director David Yates tries to recapture their sense of wonder and excitement with the tale about the young and curious wizard Newt Scamander. But it’s a difficult time for the magical society. The dark wizard Grindelwald reigns terror on the magical world and the political situation is more tense than ever. In this time of paranoia Newt Scamander enters New York City with a suitcase full of magical creatures. But as he makes his way through the busy streets, one of them dares to escape. After he manages to recapture it rather quietly, his case gets mixed up with that of a „no-maj“, the american way to say „muggle“. The non-wizard Jacob Kowalski takes Scamanders creatures home with him where even more of them break free. But they are not the city’s only problem. A dark force wreaks havoc on wizards and muggles alike, a shadow of destruction suspected to be one of Newts beasts. With the help of Jacob and Tina, a witch working for the „Magical Congress“, he attempts to find his escaped creatures to prove their innocence.
Which is easily the most exciting part of the movie. Newt Scamanders quest to get a hold of his beasts is just fun on so many levels. Discovering them all through the eyes of an outsider, Jacob Kowalski, makes every single one of these creatures even more magical. And the film does a great job to ease the audience in by resisting the urge to throw them all at us at the same time, many of the escaped creatures aren’t even revealed as they escape. And while it starts rather cute and small with a little guy who looks like a cross between a Platypus and a Mole and is just fascinated by everything shiny, everything else is just wonderful, weird and magical. Flying beasts, invisible sloths and tiny walking plants are just a few examples of what Scamander found on his journey around the world. New York is the perfect backdrop for them and feels like a breath of fresh air for the franchise as well. Out are the medieval walls of Hogwarts. Cars, skyscrapers and the busy streets of 1926 dominate the screen and make the transition into the magical world behind the curtain even more impressive.
But the film’s attempt to pull me back into the plot around the dark force that’s terrorizing the city fell more than just flat for me. It’s centered around an orphanage, run by an anti-mage woman, trying to warn people about the threat of the magical society. One of her adopted children is giving Graves, a high ranking official in the Magical Congress, information on where this beast might come from. But besides Graves (marvelously portrayed by Colin Farrell), none of the characters are engaging in any way. Only at the end when Graves’ hidden agenda is revealed, these plot points become important. Unfortunately, at that point it was far too late for me to care.
Ultimately, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does an excellent job to recapture the style and atmosphere of the original series, largely thanks to director David Yates and a strong main cast of characters lead by the wonderful Eddie Redmayne. With little nods and hints at already familiar characters, with Grindelwald right at the centre, the film should be able to satisfy both fans and newcomers alike. But these hints and revelations in the story’s finale are not just fan service, they also set the scene for Newt Scamanders journey to come and the adversity he has to face.
Beitragsbild: Kevin Wendlandt
Bilder: Warner Bros.